On the Result of the Inquiry into the Defeat at the Battle of Spatterloo
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
said the Admiral, "you must understand that what we are about to hear is
absolutely top secret."
round the big table, his bloodshot eyes and the braid on his uniform
complementing the red-gold colours of the Imperial Space Fleet on the wall
defeat at the hands...I mean tentacles...of the unspeakable !ulrq, as you all
know, has been so comprehensive that we had to sue for peace Ė even though we
are in every way superior to those slimy, cowardly, craven, misbegotten things."
One of the
junior officers cleared his throat, as though about to speak, but fell
prudently silent when the Admiral glared at him. The room was so silent that
one might have heard a drop of sweat plink on the polished table.
go into the reasons for the actual defeat," the Admiral continued, "I should
tell you a little about the background of the battle, because except for my
immediate staff, none of you will have been told more about it than was
released to the media and the masses."
and pressed a button. The wall behind him lit up with a space map marked in
lines of dull green and blazing yellow.
all know, we have been Ė for years now Ė expanding our Empire in the direction
of the realms of the unspeakable !ulrq." Everyone waited politely until he had
stopped coughing. "Sooner or later, of course, this would mean that we would
have to either crush them and take over their territories, or else..." he
shuddered "...negotiate with them over a common border."
present shuddered in sympathy at the thought of negotiating with the
second option was of course out of the question, and since the !ulrq are
obviously far inferior to us in every way possible, we decided to defeat them
in battle." The room filled with appreciative murmurs, which gradually tailed
off into silence. "It shouldn't have been difficult, because being a peaceful
race, they hardly have a space navy worth mentioning. But, still, we made
preparations, including constructing our mighty new battle fleet, of which
there has been so much reported in the media."
another touch of a button, he threw up an image on the screen. "Here is one of
our top secret new battleships. You will of course have heard that they were
under construction, but I can wager you've never seen one before.
you can see, itís not the sort of metal and ceramic ship you're used to. No,
it's got wings to fly on currents of charged particles, it's got faceted eyes
to see throughout the spectrum, and itís even got ears to listen to radio waves
in space. In fact, itís not so much a ship as an organic, spacefaring, living
indicated a thin, nervous-looking man in a white coat. "Professor Mensaman
there is the genius behind the idea. He and his team decided that living,
intelligent ships which could repair and reproduce themselves were the weapon
of the future. Of course, the whole thing was incredibly expensive, but it was
worth the effort. Imagine having a self-replicating, self-repairing fleet of
sentient warships at oneís beck and call. Who could oppose us then?"
the ships eat?" someone at the back asked. "They need food, donít they?"
anything." The Admiral waved a hand dismissively. "We carried enough organic
matter to feed them on the way out, and once there, they could be fed on all
the corpses of the unspeakable !ulrq after the battle was over. Food wasnít
about the crew?" the officer who had cleared his throat asked. "There was a crew,
wasnít there? Or have we gone all autonomous already?"
Admiral shot him a dirty look. "Of course, we selected and trained the crew
too. They were the very best, and all volunteers. Naturally, they were only
concerned with fighting, not with running the ships. The ships ran themselves."
murmured further appreciation, glancing approvingly at the man in the white
coat. "Once we had the fleet ready, we just needed a casus belli. As you
remember, that wasnít hard to arrange. We just waited for a meteor that we knew
was going to strike one of our outer colony worlds, and declared that it was
sent as a weapon by the unspeakable !ulrq. All it cost us were the lives of
three thousand expendable colonists." Everyone nodded, except the officer who had
cleared his throat. The Admiral made a mental note to have him demoted to
Ordinary Sailor and set to scrubbing toilets as soon as the meeting was over.
[ Continue to page 2 ]